ALTHOUGH on economic policy AKEL has been highly critical of the government and has been unstintingly waving the flag of populist irresponsibility for the last three years on the Cyprus peace efforts it has much more in common with DISY than the opposition parties that have made negativity their rallying cry. It has supported President Anastasiades’ drive for a settlement from the start, takes a positive line in public debate and is seeking an active role in the procedure.
Party chief, Andros Kyprianou’s visit to Istanbul last week, at the invitation of foreign minister Melvut Cavusoglu, was practical confirmation of the active role the AKEL leadership wants to play in the peace efforts. This is a positive turn, considering the communists were never fully committed to a settlement, despite their rhetoric. In fact, under the leadership of Demetris Christofias, it could be said that the party was consistently opposed to a settlement.
It was constantly accusing Glafcos Clerides, who as president agreed the first versions of the Annan plan, of making too many concessions, it subsequently chose hard-liner Tassos Papadopoulos as its presidential candidate and when there was a referendum it urged its supporters to vote against the settlement plan. These were not exactly the actions of a party that claimed it wanted a solution. As president, Christofias engaged in talks but never gave the impression he was interested in concluding them with an agreement, yet he saw this as a success. In an interview with Sigmalive last week he boasted that he had handled the Cyprus problem very well when he was president and in his mind he probably did – he did even get close to a settlement.
Kyprianou, in contrast, has established contact with the Turkish government in order to become aware of its positions. And he did not come back from his trip regaling us with the tired rhetoric about Turkey not wanting a settlement. It was a pleasant surprise hearing him speak positively about his meetings with Cavusoglu and Prime Minister Davutoglu, which he described as “remarkably friendly.” He also found out that Davutoglu was interested in establishing a partnership with Greece and Cyprus, after a solution, “in order to help develop the region.” He also had chance to convey Greek Cypriot objections to Turkish guarantees.
Establishing direct contact with Ankara was a very good idea. For many years our politicians had been saying that the “key to a solution is in Ankara” (Christofias in particular) without anyone making any attempt to open a channel of communication with the Turkish government. Kyprianou has done this, showing that AKEL’s support for a settlement is not just in words, as it had been for decades.